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It's Not About Omar Khadr

Wednesday, 18 July 2012 12:44

It's not about Omar Khadr. That's the key thing to remember about the latest twist in the seemingly endless saga of Omar Khadr. It's not about Omar Khadr.

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  • Source © Ottawa Citizen

The Government Is Right To Pay Severance

Wednesday, 11 July 2012 09:05

The rule of law is like a 1960s-era Jaguar. It looks sleek and shiny in the showroom. Every-one wants it. But, after you buy it and take it for a drive, it breaks down, so you get it fixed, and it breaks down again, and pretty soon it's costing you a fortune and it's such a pain that you wonder if maybe you should sell it or just send the damned thing to a junk-yard.

I'm sure Tony Clement under-stands that feeling.

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  • Source © Ottawa Citizen

On Tuesday, a judge in Ontario concluded that the three most important criminal laws forbidding activities related to prostitution prevent prostitutes from taking simple safety precautions that would reduce their risk of violence at the hands of clients. Hence, the laws make it much more likely that prostitutes will be assaulted, robbed, raped, and murdered. Thus, Madam Justice Susan Himel concluded that the laws violate Section 7 - "security of the person" - of the Charter of Rights. They would be struck down 30 days from the delivery of the judgment.

The next day, MPs gathered for Question Period. According to a tally made by journalist Aaron Wherry, 38 questions were asked. One dealt with the court's decision: The government announced it would appeal.

Now, stop and think about that for a moment. After a long trial and the careful examination of heaps of evidence, a judge concluded that the law is actually helping misogynistic thugs to terrorize some of the weakest people in society. And the next day, most MPs shrugged.

Oh, they talked lots. They talked about this. They talked about that. They talked about all the usual crap. They even found the time to pass a ridiculous motion condemning Maclean's magazine for publishing something they didn't like.

But members of Parliament did not talk about the very real possibility that laws passed by Parliament were aiding and abetting savage crimes against vulnerable women.

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  • Source © Ottawa Citizen

Semrau verdict exposes tragically flawed lawThe situation Captain Robert Semrau encountered was a philosopher's dream and a soldier's nightmare.

In hostile territory, what was left of an enemy combatant lay on the ground. His body had been dismembered, mangled, and shredded by an attack helicopter's guns. But still, he wasn't dead. He was alive but anyone could see he was dying, slowly, in agony. He could not be saved, even if Semrau could get him quickly to a field hospital, which he could not.

So Semrau had a choice. He could either obey Canadian law and military regulation and let this man suffer and, eventually, die. Or he could end his pain with a bullet.

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  • Source © Ottawa Citizen

Why our drug policy is 'inconsistent' with all available evidenceIt's safe to assume most people have never heard of the "Vienna Declaration." And that simple fact helps explain why public policies that fail -- policies that do vastly more harm than good -- can live on despite overwhelming evidence of their failure.

The Vienna Declaration, published in the medical journal The Lancet, is an official statement of the 18th International AIDS Conference, which wraps up today in Vienna. Drafted by an international team of public health experts, including Evan Wood of the University of British Columbia, the Vienna Declaration seeks to "improve community health and safety" by, in the words of the committee, "calling for the incorporation of scientific evidence into illicit drug policies."

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  • Source © Ottawa Citizen

Bilingualism And The Supreme Court

Monday, 26 April 2010 19:27

In 1970, Pierre Trudeau, the patron saint of bilingualism, appointed Bora Laskin to the Supreme Court of Canada. Laskin's work was stellar. In 1973, Trudeau made him chief justice. In the years that followed, the Laskin court made a series of historic judgements which helped define the modern legal landscape. Laskin died in 1984. Today, he is a legend.

Bora Laskin could not speak French. If a bill now before the Senate that would make bilingualism a mandatory qualification for appointment to the Supreme Court had been in force in 1970, he would have been automatically disqualified.

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  • Source © Ottawa Citizen

Struggling With Bilingualism

Friday, 16 April 2010 19:21

With the reader's indulgence, I'd like to tell a story that may be of interest to those concerned by a bill -- now before the Senate -- that would bar anyone who is not fully fluent in French and English from being appointed to the Supreme Court.

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  • Source © Ottawa Citizen
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